Santa Clara University

Office of the President

State of the University Address, 2014

Michael E. Engh, S.J., President
Santa Clara University
Mission Church
19 February 2014

The What, The How, and The Where To

Thank you, Dennis, for the introduction, and congratulations Judith, for your engaging remarks.  I also appreciate the invocation of Ana Maria Pineda, R.S.M., and the inspiring music of our Chamber Singers under the direction of Scot Hanna Weir. Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for attending this year’s State of the University address.

Given all that has happened this year, I have reflected about the goals and ideals of a university, and this institution in particular.  Two of the articles I read helped me gain some perspective, as they focused on expectations of a president.  The first was an essay by Fr.Bill Rewak S.J., former president and now chancellor of Santa Clara.  The article he wrote some years ago described the “perfect” college president as one who:

   "f) is in the field of education because of a wish to work with students, and spends all available time with alumni, benefactors, corporate presidents, and parents who complain about…how the president isn’t spending more time with students… .

   o) has a number one priority of increasing funding for academic programs, another number one priority of raising money for financial aid, another number one priority of raising money for residence halls, and a final number one priority of building a successful [athletic program] football team.” 1

Another former president, Herman Wells of Indiana University, summarized the ideal university president as one who combines “the physical charm of a Greek athlete, the cunning of Machiavelli, the wisdom of Solomon, the courage of a lion, the skin of a rhino…and the stomach of a goat.” 2

Each of you could imagine your own conceptions of the perfect professor, the perfect staff colleague or administrator, or the perfect student.  We could go even further and imagine the ideal, problem-free university.  Or, we could more productively consider the realities of what we have accomplished here at Santa Clara, how we have done all this, and where we are headed.  I suggest that we direct our attention to what we do here so well and what we have achieved, how we do all that we do, and the amazing trajectory that arcs before us to the future:  The What, The How, and The Where To.  Let me share some thoughts with you on these three themes and how they connect us to ourselves, our friends, and our wider world.

What We Have Achieved

As Santa Clara continues to recover from the recession, we have seen our endowment dramatically restore its losses and our fundraising regain significant traction.  Given this greater stability, on Friday, 14 February, the Trustees passed another balanced budget, but one that happily includes a 3% merit pool increase for faculty and staff salaries.  I am very pleased with this progress to compensate your hard work with an enhanced merit pool.  Thanks go out to Bob Warren and his team for all their work in preparing a sound budget for the next fiscal year.

Other signs of recovery and progress come in the form of greater gifts to the University:

  • Ed Dowd of the class of 1972 has provided the lead gift of $12 million towards a $26 million Edward M. Dowd Art and Art History Building. The site preparation and city permits are secured, and now we switch into high gear to raise remaining funds. 
  • One anonymous donor has already contributed $1 million toward the remaining amount needed to begin construction.
  • Peggy Bradshaw, class of 1972 and vice-chair of the Board of Trustees, has contributed $.5 million towards the creation of a pedestrian mall on Franklin Street. This new mall will physically connect the Edward M. Dowd Art and Art History Building to the north side of the campus.
  • I am very excited to announce that retired faculty member Victor Vari and Julia Botto Vari, his wife, are bequeathing $3 million to create an endowment to support the Arts and Humanities. They are also providing over $5 million to pay off the construction debt for the Arts and Sciences building.  In recognition of their generosity, the building will now be named the Victor and Julia Botto Vari Arts and Sciences Building. We shall hold a dedicatory celebration in the near future, and you are invited.
  • The Jesuit Community of Santa Clara has also made a major gift of $550,000 to endow a Center for the Arts and the Humanities.  This gift recognizes the deep commitment of the Jesuits to education to the liberal arts.  I ought to note that in the past 45 years, the Jesuit Community has contributed in excess of $35 million to the University, from the surplus of their salaries.  As President, I say: God bless that vow of poverty.
  • The upcoming 48th annual Golden Circle gala on 8 March has already cleared $1 million in gifts for student scholarship endowments.  Ticket receipts have yet to be counted, but to date the Board of Fellows have sold in excess of 2,200 tickets, to hear this year’s performers, Hall and Oates.
  • The University’s Board of Regents have created a new scholarship for student support and in five months have already collected more than $156,000.
  • Let me remind you of the value of gifts less than $100.  In the past calendar year, the University received 20,129 such gifts that totaled $837,264. As you see, every gift counts!

All of these gifts stand as a testament to the hard work and persistence of the staff in the Development Office, for which I am extremely grateful.

Other achievements also warrant our recognition today.

  • Applications for the incoming first-year class are strong with nearly 15,000 received.  The new Early Decision process already secured 101 excellent students. Nationally, the competition for highly qualified applicants has increased because of the decline in the number of college-age students and the rise in costs for higher education. Thanks to the dedicated work of Mike Sexton and the Admissions staff, Santa Clara’s applicant pool remains strong, gifted, and diverse. 
  • Our regional accreditor, WASC, has requested that Santa Clara University provide an Interim Report addressing four areas of interest: the integration of JST into SCU, improvements in Assessment, attention to Diversity and Inclusion, and progress in Shared Governance and Communication. Santa Clara has made significant progress on the first three. JST has been integrated into the university on many levels, and we have clear paths for continued success. Assessment has become a regular feature of the operation of the university.  We have opened an Office for Diversity and Inclusion, staffed it with fine leaders, and funded programming for its important projects.  The compilation of these significant developments for the interim report to WASC have been coordinated by Diane Jonte-Pace, and now Ed Ryan, and I congratulate them and all who have worked on these areas.  In a few moments I shall comment on shared governance.
  • Elsewhere in academics, I am very pleased with the dramatic increase in student applications for Fulbright awards. Thanks to the dedicated efforts of Leilani Miller and colleagues, we had 16 applications this year, compared to 6 last year.  Students applied to Fulbright programs in 16 different countries.  We doubled the number of applicants recommended to the next level of competition this year compared to last year. I am impressed with the spectrum of majors from which we drew student applicants: Biology, Civil Engineering, English/Music, English/Political Science, Finance, Mechanical Engineering, Psychology, and Psychology/French.  Congratulations to the faculty in all these departments.
  • Internationally famous figures continue to speak on campus, including His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and the co-founder of Partners in Health, Paul Farmer, whose life is committed to providing state-of-the-art health care to the underserved in developing countries.

The momentum of progress continues, and I could give many other examples.  Our combined efforts of faculty, staff, students, friends, and benefactors have kept Santa Clara thriving, building, hiring, and aspiring to be more.  

How We Have Faced Issues

This past Friday, members of the Faculty Senate Council sat down to lunch with the Board of Trustees.  I initiated this custom several years ago to bring together members of both groups so they could become better acquainted with one another in a relaxed atmosphere.  One trustee later wrote me about how much he had learned from his conversation with one of the faculty at his table.  Reading that message I realized again how valuable these occasions are, for trustees to listen to faculty, and for faculty to hear from trustees.

Since then, Professor Julie Chang has announced her resignation as president of the Faculty Senate.  I wish to express the gratitude of the University for her leadership this year and acknowledge her efforts to be fair and impartial to all points of view.  I believe that it is appropriate and fitting for us to recognize her service and to thank her.

Since 3 October, I have learned a great deal about shared governance and the history of how it has been lived at Santa Clara. I have come to understand far better the nuances and dynamics of the processes involved. I also have discovered the depth to which so many of you are committed to Santa Clara and its values of inclusion, respect, dialogue, justice, and care for our students, staff, and faculty.  This is home for you, an intellectual home, a place of welcome. In conversations with many of you, I have heard voiced a concern for restoring trust and for reaffirming long-cherished Jesuit values of education.

You have heard of or read my renewal of commitment to the processes of shared governance.  In addition, my administration has commenced lunches with members of the faculty and staff to listen carefully and discuss how we wish to see Santa Clara move forward.  I have been meeting with individuals one-on-one in sessions that are deeply illuminating.  My staff and I have seriously reflected on the WASC interim report, particularly the section on shared governance.  One welcome suggestion is to hold an all-day off-site retreat with faculty, staff and administrators who hold leadership roles in shared governance. Guided by a facilitator, we shall respectfully and candidly address the issues that we face.  We shall hold that meeting and adhere to its conclusions.

Throughout the dialogues and debates, there are times we may be discouraged or wearied by the challenges we face. In times such as these, I often find that poetry offers some consolation or encouragement, some insight or new perspective. Most recently I read the Irish poet, Seamus Heaney, in his version of the ancient Greek play, Philoctetes, by Sophocles. Heaney considered the nature of human conflict but wrote:

"But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme. ...

...Believe in miracles
And cures and healing wells.

Call miracle self-healing:
The utter, self-revealing
Double-take of feeling.
If there’s fire on the mountain
Or lightning and storm
And a god speaks from the sky

That means someone is hearing
The outcry and the birth-cry
Of new life at its term." 3

New Life.  Voices that are heard.  Belief in change. Hope.  Hope that rhymes with our lived history, bumpy as that history might be.  As we continue to dialogue, to find ways to work together, then our hope and history will rhyme again. We shall move forward, not alone or isolated, but in partnership, and, as we have worked through past differences, together we can - and shall - do so again.

Where We Are Headed: Integrated Strategic Plan

Since the adoption of the University’s Strategic Plan in 2011, extensive study and consultation have gone into bringing greater clarity and specificity to our dreams.  Over 50 faculty and staff invested hundreds of hours last academic year in identifying concrete objectives and critical components to realize six strategic goals.  These sessions lead to a bold, aspirational Integrated Strategic Plan that combined and coordinated the results of the Enrollment, Facilities, and Strategic Plans.  The Provost and I presented successive drafts to small groups of the Trustees that resulted in an enthusiastic endorsement of the direction by the full Board at its October 2013 meeting.

The Integrated Strategic Plan emphasizes the distinctive and transformative educational experience that is the hallmark of Santa Clara University.  It underscores the Jesuit value of preparing women and men for others, as together we work to fashion a more humane, just and sustainable world.  The plan also identifies key areas where Santa Clara can be truly excellent and stand as a leader in higher education. It also challenges us to continue building a more diverse and inclusive community, and it addresses how we can make a Santa Clara education more affordable.

1. Targeted Discussions within Disciplinary Clusters
This academic year, the deans and teams of faculty have hosted a series of conversations, organized by disciplinary cluster, to review the Integrated Strategic Plan and to elicit your comments and feedback.  Twelve sessions have been held, in which approximately 470 faculty and staff have participated.  Your input has been utilized to inform the planning process as we move towards the fundraising campaign.

2. Reveal of Comprehensive Plan
For your review and reflection, the website of the Integrated Strategic Plan will go live today, at 5 p.m. Here you will find texts, maps, and charts with the plan and the history of development of the integrated strategic plan. Next will come four Town Hall meetings to commence 25 February, and continue through 6 March. These sessions will present an overview of the entire Integrated Strategic Plan and allow you to ask questions or to comment on what you have read and heard.  I strongly encourage your participation and feedback so that we capture the practical wisdom of all segments of the University community.  Please come to any one of the four Town Hall Meetings, as your schedule permits.

3. Theme Discussions
We shall review the major topics that emerge out of the Town Halls, as well as those elicited from the Cluster conversations and from discussions with the Council of Deans and Planning Action Council. We shall utilize these foci of interest to help flesh out the actual implementation of the Integrated Strategic Plan.  One topic, for example, that has engaged faculty and staff from across the University, is that of innovation and entrepreneurship in service to humanity.  This theme arises out of our long-held goals of promoting social justice and educating students to serve the wider world.  

Through this and other theme-based discussions, we shall continue to refine the specific actions and initiatives needed to place Santa Clara University in the forefront of American higher education.  We are taking the bold step to harness our ideals with the energy of Silicon Valley’s spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship. We shall leverage our values and expand our impact in the lives of our students for the benefit of our world.

Other Developments

Parallel to these planning sessions, two other initiatives have been underway.  In spring of last year, I convened a blue-ribbon committee on athletics to address the question: what is the appropriate role of intercollegiate athletics at Santa Clara University for the students, the campus community, and for alumni and friends?  The twelve-member committee of Trustees, Regents, alumni, parents, friends, and faculty took its mission seriously. Working with a collegiate sports consultant, the task force gathered and analyzed data, and presented me with a well reasoned set of recommendations.  This document is under examination to determine its feasibility before I present it for review by the Athletics Advisory Board in May, and then to the Trustees in June for their consideration.

A second initiative commenced this fall, and that is the renewed preparation for the upcoming comprehensive fundraising campaign. Through the leadership of Jim Lyons, our new Vice President of University Relations, open positions are being filled, other posts reallocated, dozens of meetings have been held with friends and benefactors, and the timeline and strategies for the campaign developed. A strategic marketing plan is in the works, along with a robust donor relationship management system and a campaign education program.  It has been an amazing four months for Jim Lyons.  I am very pleased by the enthusiastic responses of the Trustees and Regents with the direction of the Integrated Strategic Plan and with the new energy in University Relations.


Let me close with memories of two different events I attended in the past month.  On 10 February, Jeanne Rosenberger and I drove to Pleasanton for the standing-room only memorial service for one of our alumni. Phil Scholz was a widely involved student leader during his undergraduate years as a member of the class of 2001. Phil died at the Santa Clara train station when he rescued a man who was on the train tracks. Phil saved that man’s life, and the oncoming train took Phil’s. The eulogies for Phil brought tears to my eyes, such as when his mother remembered her son. Other speakers described this hero and how he had lived his life at Santa Clara and in the years that followed. All of them concluded that Phil acted true to his character when he risked his life to save the life of a stranger.

Like you, one of my greatest pleasures at Santa Clara comes from watching our students perform, on the field or court, in the theatre, or on the dance floor. On 17 January I found myself smiling while I attended a performance of “Charisma” in the Fess Parker Theatre, that included acting, singing, and dancing.  A “spoken word” presentation caught my attention, “Waiting, Knowing, Sharing,” by senior Tennyson W. Jones (a theatre major, Student Ambassador in the Admissions office, and former summer Orientation leader).  His piece focused on connections: with one’s own self, with friends, and with others. He stated,

"Create a connection
One that allows for reflection
For self-expression
For knowing
Knowing that you have a story
That connection will only assemble that story
Create a platform for that story to stand on
To build on
To build up…" 4

Such are our stories at Santa Clara. We build on the platform of our values, and we build up our students to be heroes and leaders.  Quoting Tennyson Jones and remembering Phil Scholz remind us that such persons are the Who and the Why of our commitment to Santa Clara.  Whom do we serve? Why are we here?  We work to change lives so that students in turn will connect – with themselves, with ideas, and with the world. We want to hear the needs and stories of others so that we can live more respectfully and create a home where all are welcome.  We labor to change the world for the better, so that hope and history rhyme.

These ideals motivate us to live our commitment to our values, to face our differences, and to achieve even more for Santa Clara. I thank you for your presence here this afternoon. I thank you for all you do: for our students, for Santa Clara, and our world.  The future beckons us forward, and I am grateful for all we do together to achieve our aspirations.

Thank you again.


1. William J. Rewak, SJ, “The A to Z’s of Being a Perfect College President,” Commonweal, 124 (7 November 1997), p. 47.

2. Quoted in Rob Asghar, “The Toughest Leadership Job of All (It’s Not What You Think),” 15 November 2013, at

3. Seamus Heaney, The Cure at Troy: A Version of Sophocles’s Philoctetes (London: Faber and Faber Ltd., 1991), 77-78.

4. Tennyson W. Jones, “Waiting, Knowing Sharing – Spoken Word,” (typescript from the author, January 2014), 1.